Page last updated at 12:52 GMT, Tuesday, 8 April 2008 13:52 UK

Gay rights church bans weddings

Newington Green Unitarian Church
The church will conduct a ceremonial blessing for all couples

Weddings have been suspended at a 300-year-old church in north London in protest at "unjust" religious marriage rights of same-sex couples.

Newington Green Unitarian Church will only conduct a ceremonial blessing for both heterosexual and gay couples who have legally wed in a civil ceremony.

The church's minister, Andrew Pakula, said the church's committee voted unanimously in favour of the decision.

The church in Islington suspended full wedding ceremonies from 30 March.

The church describes itself as "an inclusive, liberal religious community welcoming people from all traditions and perspectives".

It said it would continue to bar full weddings until the law was amended.

We are standing on the side of love here and that is our stance
Andrew Pakula

Mr Pakula said: "When we realised the extent of the injustice in the existing civil partnership law which completely prohibits any connection between religion and civil partnerships, we decided it just wasn't something we could take part in.

"We have at this point continued to do blessings and civil partnership blessings so anyone who has done the legal business in the town hall can come to us and do a gorgeous religious celebration."

The church's decision comes after the Unitarians' national conference called for the Civil Partnership Act to be changed to allow religious content in civil partnership registrations.

Mr Pakula added: "Historically churches have been major perpetrators of injustice for gay and lesbian people and as a church that welcomes people of all sexual orientation, as both members and clergy, we feel it is our duty to stand up on the other side.

"We are standing on the side of love here and that is our stance."


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